Music executives could face jail over illegal flyposting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Executives at two leading record companies could face prison after being served with anti-social behaviour orders - normally reserved for unruly teenagers - over claims they are responsible for flyposting.

Executives at two leading record companies could face prison after being served with anti-social behaviour orders - normally reserved for unruly teenagers - over claims they are responsible for flyposting.

In the first case of its kind, Camden Council in north London has served the orders on Sony and BMG, claiming that the companies save about £8m a year through illegal advertisements for their artists on shop hoardings, walls and pillar boxes in the borough.

If the action is successful, the companies could be ordered by magistrates to stop flyposting or face a prison term. The maximum potential sentence is five years and other authorities are likely to bring similar cases. The orders were served on Friday and named specific executives of both companies. The case will he heard at Highbury Corner magistrates' court in north London later this month.

The use of the anti-social behaviour orders, or Asbos, is based on the grounds that the flyposting causes "harassment, alarm or distress" which the council claims contributes to the decline of urban areas. Although the case is the first of its kind against record company executives, Nottingham City Council last week gained an Asbo against an individual flyposter, who was barred from posting or carrying posters or paste in the city centre for two years.

Camden Council said the orders were sought because of complaints from local residents, businesses and visitors.

Despite requests from the council to both companies to stop putting up illegally located posters in the borough, the council spokesman said: "Products continue to be advertised on flyposters, which often appear at locations they previously have been asked to clear. The reason the companies continue to act illegally in this way appears to be the financial savings they can make by not paying for legal advertising space."

The council says that BMG UK and Ireland, whose artists include Dido and Avril Lavigne, saves an estimated £5.6m a year in advertising space costs, and that Sony UK, which represents artists such as Beyoncé, Big Brovaz, George Michael and Charlotte Church, saves about £3m. Dealing with the problem costs Camden taxpayers about £250,000 a year in removing the posters and employing five council workers.

Dame Jane Roberts, the leader of the council, said: "Flyposting involves the illegal and non-approved use of property, degrading that property and making an area seem uncared-for and an unpleasant place to be. It is clear that the people undertaking flyposting have no regard for the effect of their activities. Flyposting has a detrimental impact on the value of property and contributes to people's fear of crime."

The council's action is supported by Encams, the organisation behind the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. Alan Woods, the chief executive of Encams, said: "There is a myth that struggling artists, political campaigns and local promoters do the most flyposting. They don't.

"It is large multinational record companies that smear these ads all over city centres and then leave us with the bill to clean them up. The presence of these tatty posters does much to make neighbourhoods look squalid and unsafe." The case is part of a larger fightback by local authorities on flyposting. Newcastle is using a special paint which makes sticking up posters difficult and Cardiff is introducing legal sites, and charging companies to use them.

Neither Sony nor BMG would comment, but they are expected to contest the actions.